The U.S. banking and financial services sectors are experiencing some of their own “greed is good” layoff medicine, and beleaguered middle-class Americans are finding it very hard to feel sorry for them.
Former First-Lady Barbara Bush expressed our sentiments best years ago when she said of the angst her son George was experiencing due to his hard-partying daughters: “Now he’s getting back some of his own.”
The painful truth is that we just can’t wait to see members of the financial services industry beside us on the unemployment line because there’s nothing like shared suffering to remind people who their friends are.
It’s going to be the best thing since affordable health care, education, and energy; representative government; and plentiful jobs. You know, the things that existed in this country before the banking and financial services sectors taught the Fortune 500 how to support annual short-term profit growth by screwing over their fellow Americans.
Afterall, these are the people who counseled the Fortune 500 and the wealthiest Americans to move jobs and factories to low-wage nations, like China and India; shifted many of the decent jobs that remained to non-union states in the South; facilitated predatory lending by the housing and for-profit college sectors; and raided a federal Treasury built largely from middle-class tax dollars for bank bailouts and tax breaks.
In fact, you could almost say The Cynical Times views this round of job cuts with relish. If you’re one of the unlucky financial professionals who are now jobless, please take heart in the knowledge that your suffering is necessary for your former employer to maintain short-term profit growth. It’s not for nothing.
Just as it was with other laid off Americans your greed betrayed.
The roots of our schadenfreude are best explained by our version of the following timeless quote from German Pastor Martin Niemöller about the apathy among German intellectuals during the Nazi Party’s rise to power in the 1930s.
“First they off-shored the apparel plants to the Caribbean and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a seamstress or a sewing machine mechanic.”
“Then they off-shored other factories to China and Mexico to maximize profit growth, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a factory worker.
“Then they undermined state usury laws that capped interest rates to permit credit card companies to charge loanshark rates and fees, and I didn’t speak out because it enriched my employer.
“Then they moved the call center and programming jobs to India to save on labor costs, and I didn’t speak out because it enriched investors.
“Then they cut newsroom headcounts to maximize profit growth, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a journalist.
“Then they made federal public office so expensive that only the rich and the professional machine politicians could afford to run competitive campaigns, and I didn’t speak out because the laws enriched my employer.
“Then they allowed predatory mortgage lenders to bankrupt American families, and I didn’t speak out because it was more money in my pocket when Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae repurchased those bad loans.
“Then the machine politicians and lobbyists for the wealthy cut taxes on corporations and the rich, and I didn’t speak out because it made me even richer.
“Then bankers started highly leveraged trading in risky derivatives, and I didn’t speak out because I knew the federal government would use middle-class tax dollars to recapitalize our industry if it all fell apart.
“Then they started jacking up the prices of energy, college tuition, tolls and health services, and I didn’t speak out because my employer was handling the IPOs and bond issuances.
“Then they started looking for ways to trim Social Security and Medicare, and I didn’t speak out because I was so rich I didn’t need a social welfare net.
“Then Karl Rove and Fox News started scapegoating illegal immigrants and Hispanics because they needed to energize the wingnut base for the 2006 mid-term election, and I didn’t say anything because I’m neither Hispanic nor an illegal immigrant.
“Then they started beating up on gays and legalized abortion to divide working voters, and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t want middle-class Americans to speak with a unified voice.
“Then they came for the investment bankers and my fellow Americans stood around in stony silence, because they knew I was one of the greedy bastards that facilitated this treasonous short-term profit-growth-by-any-means crap.”
Unfortunately, there is one other painful truth in all this, which is that it’s hard for decent people to remain mad for long at their fellow Americans or to be callous to their suffering. Recent Craigslist postings on this page by laid off bankers and other financial professionals have been absolutely heart-breaking. The latest postings were clearly made by some of the wealthy financial types that thought a layoff could never happen to them.
There are ads for $1,000 bags, $500 shoes, $2,500 bicycles, $12,000 watches and more Espresso leather couches than a furniture factory. All the trappings of wealth the modern financial professional waved in everybody else’s face are now for sale.
Chin up, you greedy bastards. We forgive you, just don’t do it again.
And don’t ever fool your self into thinking we’re going to completely forget what you did.
For the now, here are some tips that might help you through this in one piece:
Lesson No. 1 is that you’re not beat until you quit. So, don’t quit.
Lesson No. 2 is that a person’s identity is measured by a lot more than their former job. Being laid off might wind up being the best thing that ever happened to you if you start liking the face in the mirror again.
Lesson No. 3 is that financial challenges are hard on relationships. Don’t take your frustrations out on your family.
Lesson No. 4 is that nothing is as deflating as being asked several times each day if you have found a job. Let your friends and relatives know this and ask them to wait for you to broach the subject.
Lesson No. 5 is that we’re all in this together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help even if you never gave a damn about the less fortunate before. Being a wealthy ass doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.
the moral of the story is that greed isn’t good. It never was. And you should have known that without being told.